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Copyright and intellectual property

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.

Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

IP rights are essentially private rights. If someone infringes those rights, i.e. uses material without permission where there is no rule of law that might make such use legal, it is generally for IP right owners to use any remedies available under the civil law. For example, seeking injunctions and damages. However, in many cases it may be better to try and negotiate a solution to illegal use with the infringer before taking legal action.

The best approach must be carefully considered in consultation with legal or other professional advisers. Law societies can give you a list of suitable solicitors and patent or trade mark agents can also give advice.

In order to reduce the chances of people using your IP without your permission, you can make sure you bring the existence of IP to their notice in any dealings with them. If you put material protected by IP into the public domain, e.g. by publishing or selling goods you can mark it appropriately. Taking out an insurance policy to cover the cost of possible enforcement action could also be worthwhile.

If some IP rights are intentionally infringed on a commercial scale, there may also be the possibility of prosecuting that person for a criminal offence. Criminal offences exist in copyright, trade marks, performers rights and conditional access law. The circumstances need to be studied carefully to determine if the behaviour amounts to a criminal offence or a matter that can be resolved using the civil law.

How do I protect a design in Europe or worldwide?

At present there is no international system for the registration of designs. If you want protection for your design in the countries of the European Union you may apply to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante, Spain. If you want protection outside the EU you generally have to make separate applications for registration in each country in which you want protection. Each national office will have their own fees.

You should remember though that there may be some automatic protection for your design in other countries under their copyright laws and this would be worth checking if you have failed to seek registered design protection. Note, though, that you will get stronger protection by registering your design rather than just relying on copyright.

About the information given on this web site

Please note.
The intention of this web site is to make available wide-ranging copyright information while offering basic copyright education to our visitors. Many of your questions and queries on the subject of copyright may be answered within this web site or through the recommended links and resources provided on our links page.The information contained within this site is offered as a consideration to visitors and at no time should the information be construed as legal advice; for all legal matters, we encourage our visitors to seek the assistance of an attorney.

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